Bucks-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 21, 2012
With the Boston Celtics mired in a three-game losing streak, 35-year-old Paul Pierce decided to take matters into his own hands. The All-Star forward will try to build off his historic effort and lead the Celtics to their sixth straight home win on Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Pierce turned back the clock with a season-high 40 points on Wednesday in a 103-91 home win over Cleveland that snapped Boston's longest skid of the season. He became the oldest player in Celtics history to score 40 in a regulation game, going 13 of 16 from the field, 6 of 7 from beyond the arc and sinking all eight free-throw attempts. It was only his second 40-point game since 2005-06. Pierce has a 43.6 field-goal percentage this season, but he's shooting 26 for 39 (66.7 percent) from the field in his last three games. "I feel like the last few games I've been shooting the ball a lot better," Pierce said. "So I'm feeling like I'm really coming along where I'm starting to get into a good groove offensively." The 15-year veteran has averaged 22.0 points in his last two meetings with the Bucks, but has scored just 11.8 in his past four in the series at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo has also given the Celtics (13-12) a lift lately, totaling 46 points on 16-of-29 shooting (55.2 percent) in his last two games. The league's assist leader hasn't posted three straight 20-point games since the 2008-09 season. It's not likely to come easy against the defensive-minded Bucks (13-11), who have held opponents to 92.3 points during a 5-2 stretch. Milwaukee, though, has been looking for any kind of spark offensively as the team's shooting struggles continued Wednesday in a 90-80 loss at Memphis. The Bucks ended up with season lows in points and field-goal percentage (35.3). Brandon Jennings, who had a season-high 34 points in a win over Indiana on Tuesday, scored 26 despite shooting 9 of 26. He'll try to rebound against the Celtics, whom he burned for 21 points and 13 assists in a 99-88 win in the first meeting in Boston on Nov. 2. Monta Ellis hopes to shake off one of the worst shooting performances of his eight-year career, going 1 for 14 against the Grizzlies. The team's scoring leader (18.4) has made just 13 for 51 (25.5 percent) from the floor in his last three games. "He's our scorer, so he's the most important player on this team," Jennings said. "With great scorers like that you shouldn't be too worried because they always come back strong." Larry Sanders has been a key to the team's success against Celtics, averaging 12.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in three meetings – including 18 and 16, respectively, in a 91-88 win on Dec. 1. The Bucks, though, have eclipsed 100 points only once in their last 14 games, averaging 91.4 while shooting 41.2 percent during that stretch. Boston had won six straight against Milwaukee before losing two of three meetings this season. The Celtics, who have won eight of 10 at home against the Bucks, haven't lost a season series to them since 2005-06.
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